Last edited 03 Mar 2024



[edit] Introduction

Competence is a measure of the ability to do things well. Thus, a competent person is someone who generally does things to standards that are judged favourably by others.

Competence can sometimes be ascertained on the basis of historical actions which can be projected into the future to give an idea of how someone might perform under a specific set of circumstances. So, on the basis of past work completed, an architect may be expected to do well (and so show competence) on a similar new building project.

Competence may also be demonstrated by accreditation or qualifications, or by comparison with industry standards.

Competency and success usually go hand in hand: exhibiting competence is a vital characteristic for progression in any career. However, competence can be subjective – what may appear competent to one person may seem incompetent to another.

[edit] Incompetence

The opposite of competence is incompetence which is a tendency not to do things well. An incompetent person generally makes mistakes, gets things wrong or does not perform to the required standard.

However, neither competence nor incompetence need be permanent and even generally competent people can at times show signs of incompetence – and vice versa.

[edit] Hackitt review

Following the Grenfell Tower Fire, the Hackitt Review found that competence across the construction industry was patchy and called for the creation of a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) comprising Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to oversee better management of safety risks in high-rise residential buildings across their entire life cycle.

For more information see: Hackitt review of the building regulations and fire safety, final report.

[edit] The Competence Steering Group (CSG)

The Competence Steering Group (CSG) was set up under the auspices of the Industry Response Group, established in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire in June 2017 jointly by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Build UK, Construction Industry Council and Construction Products Association and the National Fire Chiefs’ Council. The CSG is chaired by CIC Chief Executive Graham Watts and CPA Chief Executive Peter Caplehorn.

In October 2022 a timeline setting out key milestones in improving competence of those working in the construction and fire sectors was been created by the Competence Steering Group (CSG). The timeline charts the activities of the 12 Working Groups within the CSG detailing when competence frameworks for each of their specialisms will be published alongside other activities This includes the new PAS documents for duty holders and expected timescale for the transition to new British Standards. Dates implementation dates for Building Safety Act legislation is also included on the colour-coded graphic.

The CSG was set up to tackle competence shortcomings identified in the 2018 Hackitt Review, Building a Safer Future, published in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. The CSG comprises more than 150 institutions and associations working across construction, built environment, fire safety and owner / manager sectors.

[edit] Timeline for working group competence activity

The Working Groups established by and reporting into the Competence Steering Group are outlined in the table below, with the Timeline for competence activity outlined in the diagram below.

Engineers (WG1) Fire safety enforcing officers (WG5) Site supervisors (WG9)
Installers (WG2) Building standards professionals (WG6) Project managers (WG10)
Fire engineers (WG3) Building designers, including architects (WG7) Procurement (WG11)
Fire risk assessors (WG4) Building safety managers (WG8) Products (WG12)

CSG-Timeline-for-competence-activity-V4-Final-14.10.2022 1000.jpg

[edit] A Higher Bar

A Higher Bar. Achieving a competence led built environment, is the third report from the Competence Steering Group and urges industry to embrace new standards and frameworks and sets out the Group’s future. It sets out the significant steps being made across the built environment and fire sectors in improving skills, knowledge, and behaviours to drive culture change and improve the safety of buildings. The report can be downloaded here

[edit] Setting the bar

Setting the bar. A new competence regime for building a safer future. The Final Report of the Competence Steering Group for Building a Safer Future, was published in October 2020, defines competence/ competences as: ‘…the combination of skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours that enable a person to undertake responsibilities and perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis.'

It suggested that the competence framework as: ‘A set of agreed skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours required for a profession or trade in order to perform their work to predetermined standards and expectations and maintain or improve their performance over time.' And competency/ competencies refer to: ‘A person’s ability to perform a certain task.’ And a competent person as: ‘…someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.’

NB BSI Flex 8670 V3.0, Built environment – Core criteria for building safety in competence frameworks – Code of practice, April 2021 Version 3, published by The British Standards Institution in 2021, defines competence as: ‘…application of skill, knowledge, experience and behaviour consistently to achieve a specific outcome.’

It defines competence assessment as: '...evaluating and documenting evidence of an individual’s performance against competence requirements.'

The Code for Construction Product Information, Version 1.0, published by CCPI in September 2021 defines Competent/Competence as: “application of skill, knowledge, experience, and behaviour consistently to achieve a specific outcome.”

[edit] APM competence framework

The competence framework for project managers in the built environment was launched in January 2024 by APM in association with CIOB and RICs. The new competence framework applies to the management of projects in the built environment following changes in the recently introduced Building Safety Act. It was introduced in response to learnings from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, this new framework is planned to have significant implications for project professionals working in the built environment. The new framework can be accessed here.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again